By Keith Idec
Boxing fans will be forced to choose again Saturday night between simultaneous shows broadcast by HBO and Showtime.
HBO will televise the 122-pound championship bout between “The Filipino Flash,” Nonito Donaire (30-1, 19 KOs), and Mexico’s Jorge Arce (61-6-2, 46 KOs, 1 NC) from Houston. Showtime will counter with a 12-round junior welterweight main event that’ll pit England’s Amir Khan (26-3, 18 KOs) against Carlos Molina (17-0-1, 7 KOs), of Rosemead, Calif., from Los Angeles.
The Showtime broadcast is scheduled to begin at 10:30 p.m. ET, around the same time HBO’s replay of the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight will end and the network’s live telecast will start from Toyota Center.
HBO-Showtime battles aren’t an uncommon occurrence and sometimes, though neither network’s executives will admit it publicly, it is done intentionally to impact the other network’s ratings. Stephen Espinoza, Showtime’s executive vice president of sports and event programming, admits, however, that it’s bad for the boxing business overall and that he’d like to minimize counter-programming.
“When it’s possible, we’re going to try to avoid it,” Espinoza said. “You know, it takes two, essentially, to avoid it. But if at all possible, it’s the best thing for the fans of the sport to stay away from those things, particularly when you have two fights which appeal to the same demographic.”
That was particularly true when Showtime televised Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s knockout of Josesito Lopez on Sept. 15, the same night Sergio Martinez defeated Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in an HBO Pay-Per-View main event. Those competing cards even took place in the same city, Las Vegas.
“It was unfortunate,” Espinoza said. “I think everybody made the best of it, but both fights would’ve done better.”
Espinoza isn’t shy, though, about expressing his desire to completely close the gap between HBO and Showtime’s boxing programming.
“I think we have been successful so far in demonstrating that we are going to be competitive for the highest-level fights, that there’s no difference in quality between the networks,” Espinoza said. “I don’t think that’s always been the case in the past. And it’s tough competition, because HBO’s got a strong brand. … But things can change pretty quickly. I think for the people that are paying attention, for the boxing fans, they see a difference.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.